So the social network juggernaut that is Facebook took another step forward with its face recognition software for photographs this week. Basically the new Tag Suggestions feature scans photos and automatically picks out existing friends by guessing them asking you if you would like to tag them. Now this feature would sound pretty good if you were told about it and asked if you wanted to use it? Sadly, although Facebook is all about being social it still seems to forget how to announce these new features to us.

In its defence when the feature was launched in the US at the back end of last year Facebook did notify its users but it didn’t over here in the UK prompting an online outcry and a quick apology from Facebook.

ABC News reports:

The feature also offers “group tagging,” which allows users to type in a person’s name and “apply it to multiple photos of the same person,” according to Facebook’s blog post on the subject.

The problem is that users can do this without their friend’s permission.

Facebook said on its blog Tuesday that it has been rolling out the Tag Suggestions feature over the course of several months. While it was originally just available in the United States, they also said it is now activated in several countries, which has already caused some headaches

A BBC article comments about a Facebook spokesperson telling them there had been misconceptions about the new feature it comments:

“Tag Suggestions are only made to people when they add new photos to the site, and only friends are suggested.

“If for any reason someone doesn’t want their name to be suggested, they can disable the feature in their privacy settings.

“We should have been more clear with people during the roll-out process when this became available to them,” said the spokesperson.

I think this chaos has just raised the privacy setting issue all over again and Facebook doesn’t seem to learn from its previous mistakes – or does it actually care anymore?

Why should the users have to amend this setting afterwards? Surely the privacy settings should be selected by the user from the outset and anything that is newly added should be run past the user rather than this way which is pretty stealth like.

I think all social networks should review their privacy settings and ask their users what they would like to share and with whom. This is our data we are sharing not theirs although it does become theirs when we share it with them. I know a lot of people have never even checked their privacy settings because they don’t understand what they mean, and lets face it the interface changes so often you can understand why some people do struggle with them. When I worked at a previous agency we used to check someone out on Facebook first and if they didn’t have control of their privacy settings we occasionally discounted them for working with us as it showed that the person in question was naive to social networks and how they work. In the PR industry we all need to be aware of online security no matter what platforms we are using for us and our clients.

So I think we should all be notified about our privacy settings and what they mean – we should be asked to review them in light of this new feature. New social networks listen to people they don’t want their data or images shared without knowing about it. Social media is all about transparency and this was so opaque it’s untrue.

About Chris Norton

Chris Norton is the founder of Prohibition and an award winning communications consultant with more than twenty years’ experience. He was a lecturer at Leeds Beckett University and has had a varied PR career having worked both in-house and in a number of large consultancies. He is an Integrated PR and social media blogger and writes on a wide variety of blogs across a huge amount of topics from digital marketing, social media marketing right through to technology and crisis management.